May 18--Bruce MacLachlan said he might miss the deep snow of Indiana a little bit, but not too much.
"My kids like the outdoors," the new manager of the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport said. "As soon as it hits 40 degrees, they're in bare feet and T-shirts."
The former operations and maintenance manager at the South Bend Regional Airport, MacLachlan said there were other aspects of Lewiston that warmed him to the job. One was a relative familiarity with the area he gained during his three years as an operations supervisor at the Spokane International Airport.
"I actually found my way down here to Lewiston a couple of times," he said, noting that he's also worked in Oklahoma and Florida. "Every place that I've lived has had its charm, but the people out here are amazing people."
MacLachlan officially replaced longtime manager Robin Turner on Monday, but he spent his first few days on the job at the Idaho Airport Management Association conference in McCall, where he met his counterparts and got a better feel for Idaho and how its airports work.
Turner was set to retire on April 1, after nearly 30 years on the job. But the airport authority board's first search for a replacement failed, so he committed to stay on until a new manager was found and gets comfortable in the position. MacLachlan, 46, said he expects Turner to stick around for a few weeks to help with the transition, and still be in contact if need be.
"I suppose I'll have him on speed dial for a while," MacLachlan said.
One of the most pressing tasks for his early tenure will be to help continue the ongoing overhaul of the airport's master plan, which hasn't been completely redone since 1999.
"That process is going to go a long way toward identifying alterations and what we're going to do," he said.
The final configuration of the airport's new south-side business park will be one major component of the master plan. There have been differing views on how the former Lewiston Gun Club land will be used, especially its balance of private hangars and commercial operations.
But MacLachlan said that with the careful consideration of the airport board, and assistance from its consulting firm, a plan should emerge that provides the best mix for general, commercial and corporate aviation.
The new manager also wants to focus on growing the number of people who use the airport for travel. For instance, he said it is unlikely that the attraction of free parking will go away any time soon.
"We want to be a good community partner," MacLachlan said. "But at the same time, we hope that the community would reciprocate and consider us for their travel needs."
He will also need to take some time to gauge what is working well at the airport, and what might not be, before he makes any major moves.
"I'm not going to come in with a great big broom and change everything right off the bat," he said.
Another major task is finding a home. Wife, Yvonne, and daughters Rowan, 6, and Elowyn, 4, are staying in South Bend until the school year ends, but MacLachlan said he was going house hunting with a real estate agent this week. And speaking of kids, MacLachlan said he plans on staying with the airport at least until they are out of school to avoid the disruption a move would cause.
Mills may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 848-2266.
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